Irish Film Review: In View

In-View

With the release of Ciaran Creagh’s “powerful and unsettling” feature In View, we revisit Seán Crosson’s review from last year’s premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh.

The themes of depression and suicide are among the most challenging to portray cinematically. They certainly don’t fit easily within  mainstream cinema today, with its focus on action, escapism and ‘entertainment’, probably the most overused word in cinema parlance. However, challenging narratives engaged with this topic are probably more necessary today in Ireland than at any point in the recent past given the unprecedented numbers taking their lives each year, now exceeding 500 per annum. As In View’s director Ciaran Creagh remarked following the film’s premiere in Galway, “There is an onus on us to bring these issues forward”.

In View is a powerful and unsettling depiction of one woman’s battle with depression and the circumstances that can surround taking the traumatic decision to end one’s own life. It is a production clearly built upon extensive research which informs the detailed account given of the lead character’s decline.

The film features Garda Ruth (Caoilfhionn Dunne), who is confined to desk duty. She has lost her husband and child, and is unable to deal with the huge loss and guilt she feels, blaming herself in particular for her husband’s suicide following her affair with a colleague. Her days are spent drinking or hiding in her office, unable to move on or overcome the deep depression which constantly follows her. Despite attempts by her co-workers and her father-in-law, she can see no way out. A visit to a local support group would appear to only remind her of her own guilt and much of the last third of the film chronicles her preparations for her own suicide. There is no redemption for either Ruth or the viewer here; director and writer Creagh (screenwriter of Parked (2011)) does not back away from the very dark and tragic reality of suicide.

Creagh is ably supported by the excellent and patient cinematography of David Grennan – indeed much of the film is dependent primarily on the visual with dialogue often to a minimum. The acting is also generally strong throughout, with established figures of Irish stage and screen featured, including  Gerard McSorley as Ruth’s father-in-law, and Ciarán McMenamin as her former lover Denis. There is, however, at times an overuse of incidental music evident where silence might well have been more effective – this becomes increasingly the case as Ruth’s mental state worsens. While no doubt included to compliment her condition, it ultimately detracts from what provides the core and backbone to the film as a whole; the performance of Caoilfhionn Dunne, probably best known to Irish audiences for her role as Lizzie in the RTÉ crime series Love/Hate.

Creagh revealed in Galway that the script was originally written with a male lead in mind; the decision to switch the gender was inspired and adds to the general sense of alienation throughout the narrative as Ruth navigates a primarily male world in search of normality: ‘I just want to be normal,’ she remarks at one point. Given the challenging subject of the film, In View is not easy viewing but it is Dunne’s extraordinary performance as Ruth that principally keeps the viewer’s interest throughout the narrative.

 

In View screened on Thursday, 7th July as part of the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh.

 

 

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Caoilfhionn Dunne, Actor, ‘In View’

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Gemma Creagh talks to actor Caoilfhionn Dunne about her role in Ciaran Creagh’s In View, which is released in cinemas from 19th May 2017.

Caoilfhionn plays Ruth, whose life is one of burgeoning guilt dominated by rage, alcoholism, depression and self-loathing which has its origins in a once-off drunken indiscretion with a work colleague some years previous. 

In View was awarded first prize for best screenplay at the 2016 Rhode Island International Film Festival and Caoilfhionn was nominated in the best actress category in the 2017 Irish Film and Television Awards.

 

What’s your background in acting?

I trained at the Gaiety School, a part-time, one-year course first of all and then a full-time, two-year course. I had been in the University of Limerick studying law, French and Sociology but dropped out about halfway through to do acting. 

 

Every parent’s dream… 

Yes, it really is. As you can imagine they were over the moon! At first, I was mainly working in theatre, but got into film when I did a short with Hugh O’Conor called Corduroy, and then Love/Hate came along, which was my big TV break. 

 

What’s different about working in theatre, film and television, and what is it you like about them?

Well, they all bleed into each other in some respects. I love live theatre. I love the feeling of being in the room with an audience and feeding off them. There’s a wonderful exchange that happens in that one moment. The next night it is you and an entirely different group of people. So, each night, everybody in the room together has a shared, unique experience. I love that about theatre.

I love film because you get to experiment with how little is required to express a huge amount. I love playing with that. And how much you can convey with as little as possible.

And with TV,  the great thing is you get to create a person and carry them through a longer storyline. And you become part of a family.

They all have their own things but do feed into each other a lot.

 

Turning to In View, Ruth is a very intense character to play. How did you get into the headspace for this?

I read it and just went on what Ciaran [Creagh, the writer/director] had written. I didn’t want to pay too much attention to her job or her identity as a guard, but just to focus on a human being who feels there is no other option. I wanted to explore that. It’s a subject that is very close to my heart, especially with what’s happening in Ireland at the moment and how we do not deal with mental health problems and the problems associated with them. So it was tough, to say the least, but it was worth it to get that character and these subjects on the screen.

They’re subjects that have affected every single Irish person on some level, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. Those things have been around us, if not in us then around. So it’s important to have look at that and acknowledge it.

 

As an actor, do you bring something of yourself to the characters you play?

I think they are all bits of me – when I approach something I try to find what I know of it. You have to look at yourself and ask, is there a bit of me like that? There’s four main states of being: happy, sad, afraid and angry and we’ve all been there in varying degrees. That’s where I start… what do I know? How can I access that? What part of me do I have? I think that is important for me to maintain a truth throughout what I’m playing, to ground it in something real.

 

Is there any role in particular you’d like to play?

Mmmmm. I would love to do a comic book movie… something with action.

 

You had a few action scenes in Love/Hate – did you get a taste for it?

I did, but I want to be green-screening this, jumping off stuff. Doing mad things. I’m a big comic book and fantasy fan so that’s the kind of stuff I love reading and it’s something that I’d love to do – and it’s big at the moment.

 

Who would be the person you love to play?

I’ve always had my eye on Jean Grey from the X-Men but they have their new Jean Grey now so that’s gone out the window. I suppose I’ll just have to write one myself!

 

And you can base it in Ireland. I think we’re due a good superhero movie.

Yeh. I think we need a good action movie in Ireland. The last one was Haywire with Gina Carano, jumping across  Dublin rooftops and kicking the life out of lads. So, I think we’ve nailed the comedy and the tragedy; it’s time for a big action movie in Ireland.

 

If you were starting out now and you could give yourself some advice, what would it be?

I would say, get  to do everything. Do stage, do screen, do dance, learn to juggle, learn to ride a horse. Learn as many skills as you possibly can because one day that there will always be dips and there will be times when one side of things isn’t going as well. And, also, just arm yourself with as many skills as you possibly can because they will always come in useful and you may open yourself up to jobs that otherwise would have been unavailable to you.

In View is in cinemas from 19th May 2017

 

 

Interview: Ciaran Creagh, writer/director of ‘In View’

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Interview: Ciaran Creagh, writer/director of ‘In View’

Ciaran Creagh Writer Director In View

Writer / director Ciaran Creagh talked to Film Ireland about his film In View, the story of the implosion of Ruth Donnelly, a thirty-something Garda officer, whose drunken indiscretion set off a chain of events which she never could have foretold. A couple of years have now passed and Ruth’s life is one of burdening guilt dominated by rage, alcoholism, depression and self-loathing. Ruth eventually concludes that there is only one way for her to make amends with the world.

 

The subject matter of In View is particularly challenging for a filmmaker – can you tell us how the project came about?

This was one of the challenges facing me when writing the screenplay. From the outset, this film is more than just about depression and suicide. I wanted it to touch on the larger, more universal story of human guilt, the way sometimes one can never move on with their lives and also the extreme and sometimes nonsensical measures people take to placate their guilt.

I had the central idea of the story and then came up with the characters and scenarios.  While writing the screenplay I carried out a lot of research into the area and spoke to organisations working in the sector.  They all welcomed the raising of these issues into the national debate on a topic which really needs to be talked about.  Of course, the more you get into a project the more you learn and discover. This can ultimately change the direction of the script, which of course it did.

Through this process the script went from being initially a chase movie to save Ruth to the telling of a story through the eyes of one character.  The art of writing a screenplay is very demanding but I don’t feel that any particular topic should increase that challenge unless it is so close to your heart that you, as a writer, can’t step away to be impartial.

 

From script to screen – you frame the world in a particular way in the film that informs us of the main character’s state of mind; obviously working with David Grennan as your DOP was crucial to achieve this. And then there’s getting the final project through the edit working with Tony Cranstoun. 

In every feature there are three films. The script is the first as to how the writer sees it. The second is the director of photography, with the third being the cutting room. Dave Grennan is a hugely experienced DOP who brings an awful lot to the table. What Dave did is to take what’s on the page and turn it into not just pictures but the visual experience for the audience. We worked together really well and understood each other. Trust is so important and as a writer/director you are exposing yourself on film and you need this sort of relationship with your DOP. I would give an idea of what I wanted and Dave just made it come to life. Simple as that. I think that is what you call talent!

The third part of the equation is the edit. On In View this was Tony Cranstoun. Tony has an amazing CV and the breadth of his experience really helped make this film what it is. He continually pushed me and came up with solutions when none seemed possible. The pacing of In View is pretty amazing considering that the assembly was 155 minutes and the completed film 93 minutes. I suppose the key to a good editor is to figure out what the director wants and then push it way past that point to a place where you watch the film over and over again and can’t think of any further changes. Tony got me there.

 

Can you tell us about the decision to have the main character as a garda?

When I came up with the main theme of the film I then needed to create the backstory and lead character.  I love character and especially making them in some way an anti-hero. Given the story sentimentality could have crept in very easily and there is nothing worse on screen for me than having the lead as a weak character. The police deal with and protect us from the very worst in society but this cannot but rub off. It gives this inner resilience to compartmentalise awful things they encounter and this is what the lead character in this film needed. She needed an inner strength and by making her a garda, the character could take on a persona which is both believable and real.

In View - Ruth (Caoilfhionn Dunne) listens from behind the door

Caoilfhionn Dunne as Ruth is immense in the film. What did she bring to the role as an actor.

Caoilfhionn was terrific in the role and has been praised by everybody that has seen the film and has been lauded by all of the reviewers for her stunning performance. Her character is in every scene and half of the scenes in the film have no dialogue. The actor who had to play the lead character was always going to have to be terrific to carry this film. If the audience didn’t believe her portrayal of Ruth, they wouldn’t believe the film either. I know I am biased but her performance is in my opinion unsurpassed in 2016 in Ireland.

 

You didn’t do too badly with the rest of the cast either.

How lucky were we! The cast was pretty amazing and reads like a who’s who of Irish talent. Stuart Graham, Ciaran McMenamin, Gerry McSorley, Maria McDermottroe… need I go on. So much talent and ability and all so generous and understanding of what we were trying to achieve with the film. When you work with experienced actors they will know what they must bring to the film and have a level of professionalism which gives great reassurance to any director.

The balance of the characters at script stage was a real challenge since you have to ensure that  the focus is on Ruth as this film is about her journey and how she interacts with the environment that she encounters. The spark between all the actors was instant with all having a very strong instinct for the characters and an immediate rapport with each other as actors.

 

I read that the script was originally written with a male lead in mind. Can you explain your decision to change that.

I worked on the script for about one year and one of the producers, Simon Doyle, was very involved in the process. We brought the script to a really good place and we felt that it was ready for production. Out of the blue, one evening while sitting at home, it came to me, what if the main male character and the supporting female character switched roles without changing the characteristics of their individual character.  I rewrote the script in the matter of 24 hours and knew straightaway this simple change would make this film something special – showing a female in a male dominated world.  I think women are generally a lot more complex and, as a writer, this gives you so many more places you can go when exploring a character.

 

What has been audiences’ reactions to the film?

It has been pretty amazing everywhere we have been. Whether it was the Ireland, the US, Germany, Poland or Estonia the reaction has been great from the reviewers but especially the audience.  I have had a number of audience members approach me who have been touched by depression and suicide in some way and all have been so positive about In View. When we were trying to fund the film the usual funders you would approach all said that the lead character would never hold an audience. This certainly was not my experience. She is the anti-hero and you are sucked into her world.

 

Recently there was Frank Berry’s film [I Used to Live Here] about suicide clusters and now your film, which both make an important contribution to public discourse around suicide.

In View is an original piece of filmmaking which directly relates to the on-going crisis of suicide in Ireland and in many other countries around the world. Its approach, by focusing on the character and how she develops throughout the feature, is a very distinctive voice and is challenging in how it shows an individual’s view of the world and the progression of her life to what she sees as its successful completion and atonement.

This is not a popular choice of topic for a film and I do understand that – but writers are supposed to challenge and I hope in some way that I have contributed in some meaningful way to the debate that needs to happen.  Frank’s film is great and while looking at similar themes shares something in common with In View, that is the terrific performance of the lead actor, Jordanne Jones.

I hope that the audience will find the film an accurate and true reflection of a person’s life who had found herself in a bad place through circumstances of choices made. This is not about judging the character of Ruth but is about trying to understand and have compassion for her. All that she can see is all that is now gone. How many people around the world feel this every single day?

 

 

 

Caoilfhionn Dunne, Actor, ‘In View’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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